By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Two producers from the West are finalists in the Faces of Farming and Ranching program, sponsored by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. The organization launched a nationwide search earlier this summer to help put real faces on agriculture.
Brenda Kirsch of St. Paul, Ore., and Tim Nilsen of Wilton, Calif., are among nine finalists vying to become the face of agriculture, according to a press release from the Alliance.
Kirsch's grandfather started the family farm over 60 years ago as a dryland farm. Her father took over in the 1970s, and she is now being transitioned to run the 1,000-acre operation.
In the last 30 years, irrigation was added to three quarters of the farm. With water and great soil, the farm is able to be very diversified, she said in her online description of the operation.
The farm raises perennial ryegrass, hazelnuts, straw, wheat, green beans, squash, and crimson clover. Products are sold worldwide through farmer-owned co-ops and other processors and distributors.
Nilsen Farms is a contract turkey grower. The ranch was established in 1983 by Nilsen's father and has been continually evolving over the years to become one of the most state-of-the-art poultry facilities in the U.S., Nilsen's online description states.
The Nilsens have been named "Grower of the Year" from their major customer for seven years straight. With the implementation of modern technology, Nilsen Farms is able to monitor the conditions of the birds automatically and continuously.
The other finalists include Chris Chinn, Clarence , Mo.; Will Gilmer, Sulligent, Ala.; Daphne Holterman, Watertown, Wis.; Eric McClam, Columbia, S.C.; Katie Pratt, Dixon, Ill., Bo Stone, Rowland, N.C.; and Janice Wolfinger, Morristown, Ohio.
More than 100 applications were received from farmers and ranchers across the nation. The winners will become the face of agriculture and will be tapped to share stories and experiences on a national stage to help shift conversations about food production and set the record straight about the way U.S. agriculture feeds the nation.
"These exceptional farmers and ranchers can bring the reality of farming and ranching to the forefront for consumers, mainstream media and influencers to develop a relationship and learn more about how food gets from the farm or ranch to their plates," Bob Stallman, chairman of USFRA and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in the release.
People can visit www.fooddialogues.com to learn more about each of the nine finalists and the work they do -- and to cast their votes for their favorite.
Consumers, farmers and ranchers are asked to vote for who they believe best represents those across the country who work to bring food to the table. These votes will be factored into the decision to determine the winners. Voting closes Dec. 15.
In addition to the public vote, a panel of judges will interview and evaluate the finalists to help determine the winners, who will be announced in early January.